Not only is commuting by bike more fun than rotting on the cramped tube every day, it’s also a hell of a lot cheaper and healthier. And now that the dark mornings and evenings (and frost and chilling winds) are done with, now if the perfect time to indulge your inner cycle pro. The first step is to find the right bike but before you hit the shops, there are some things to consider to ensure you find the right bike, invest in the right gear, and stay safe on the roads.
Consider your biking style
Are you going to be a hard-core biker decked out in all the latest gear tackling your daily commute or are you envisioning yourself riding home from the farmers’ market with a basket full of flowers and baguette once a week? For the road cycling you will be better off on a road bike or a hybrid bike; casual riders can opt for something more traditional and pretty; extreme sports fans who will be off-road biking should go for a specialist mountain bike for true versatility.
Go shopping with a pro
Well, it doesn’t have to be an actual pro, but if you do have a friend, partner or sibling who is a dedicated rider and knows their stuff, take them along with you to help you select the right bike to suit your needs. This will give you a second opinion to the guy in the shop, will help you remember to ask the right questions about your new bike. Here is an excellent guide from Bike For All to show you everything you need to know (and ask) when selecting your new bike.
Where will you store it?
Unfortunately in urban cities there is a big chance that a bike chain won’t cut it when it comes to keeping your bikes safe from thieves. You should store it indoors at night, so if space is at a premium consider a folding bike – these are compact and great for urban dwellers. If you have to carry it upstairs to your flat or office, also consider a bike with an aluminium or super light steel frame. Alternatively there are secure cycle storage units for your garden; and be sure to invest in the best quality lock you can afford to keep it safe when you have to leave it outdoors.
Get the gear
Make sure you have the right safety gear to keep you in one piece should you come off your bike at any point (and let’s face it, it’s bound to happen eventually). You should have a good professionally-fitted helmet, a light for your bike and a high-visibility vest for cycling in low light conditions.
Maintain it correctly
The initial outlay isn’t the end of the story when it comes to buying a bike. You will need to get it serviced regularly and carry out basic maintenance to keep it in tip-top condition. You can find some basic tips here.
You might presume that if you know the laws of driving you will be able to drive safely on the roads. This is not always the case! Riding in urban centres can be VERY dangerous, so learning how to ride safely and confidently is absolutely vital before you hit the roads. Here you can find the rules for cyclists, and there is an excellent FAQ section here.
It is possible to get third party bikers insurance to cover yourself in the event of damaging another person’s property in an accident. You can either buy it direct from insurers (shop around for the best deal), or join a cycling organisation, many of which offer insurance as a benefit of membership – see CTC or British Cycling.
Buy second hand?
There are a lot of bikes for sale second-hand. If you are thinking of going this route to save a bit of money, remember that repairs might be costly and getting a warranty on a second-hand bike can be difficult. In other words it might be safer and cheaper to go with a new bike to begin with. That said, many reputable bike stores completely refurbish second-hand bikes and sell them with a warranty, so if you are going to go second-hand, this might be the best option.
Here are some excellent UK cycling online resources: